Growing up, I always hated the month of September because it marked the end of summer parole and the start of my re-imprisonment in school. Even when I didn’t hate school that much (a brief stretch that lasted somewhere between fourth and sixth grades), September still meant the end of hot weather and the closing of the community pool, which would always break my heart and still does, even today. There was only one salve that offered any emotional relief back then: comics.
After a summer of posts tackling some deep comics history, a bit of Little Archie feels like it would hit the spot about now. And in the interest of capturing some of that back-to-school flavor, let’s see how Little Archie spent his summer vacation in 1978.
Wow, that cover has been through the absolute mill, no? There’s actually a bit of a story behind this.
I did not buy Little Archie #136 (Nov. 1978) for myself when it came out; my buddy down the street bought it. He let me read it around the time he purchased it and then I got it from him in a trade a year or two later. At the time of the trade, I remember asking how the comic got so beat up, and I’ll never forget his response. He said his older brother liked to roll up his comic books, wrap rubber bands around them, and then use them as weapons—either to beat him or throw at him.
When you consider that the scan above is the actual comic that was weaponized against him over forty years ago, it’s pretty amazing that it’s held together at all. I remember it was curled at the sides when I got it (physical evidence that his story was indeed true) and that I had to press it under several heavier books over a night or two to get it flat again. I also had to tape a big tear in the cover, which you should be able to see in the image, and amazingly enough, that tape has held all this time. Still a lot of folds and fraying at the corners and edges, but it remains in shockingly readable shape.
“The Island of Doom”
The big event of Little Archie’s summer that year began with Mr. Lodge’s glider being forced to land on a desert island by bad weather. But that’s not even the exciting part—the excitement really begins when the tiny island turns out to be the artificial headquarters of Little Archie’s old enemies, Dr. Doom and Chester.
No need to go back and read that again; you read it right the first time.
Last time I blogged about Little Archie, I discussed the generational divide between the comic’s two main creators, Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. The title got its start with Bolling, who was at the drawing board for Little Archie #1 (Dec. 1956) through #39 (June 1966). Taylor took over with #40 (Sept. 1966) and was primary artist through the final issue, #180 (Feb. 1983)—though Bolling did begin doing occasional stories again, published alongside Taylor’s, beginning in mid-’79 or so. When the Little Archie stories shifted over to Archie Giant Series with issue #527 (Jan. 1983), it was mostly Taylor the first few times; then Taylor and Bolling together again for a stretch; then all Bolling for the last few appearances. The final Little Archie issue of Giant Series was #619 (Jan. 1991).
This particular issue I’m covering today (#136) was the only time Doom and Chester appeared in a Taylor story. The pair had been a creation of Bolling and it had been quite a while since they were last seen in the pages of Little Archie. Superhero nut that I was (particularly a Marvel superhero nut), I was spellbound by it all. Little Archie had enemies? Super-villain type enemies? Moreso, Little Archie had a deep history? And (apparently) Marvel-style continuity? It boggled my juvenile mind.
The plot itself is not very complex. Little Archie and the gang are captured by Dr. Doom and Chester as their mobile-island headquarters is chugging away toward Riverdale, where the villains plan to terrorize the town with their robot dragon. While in the brig, the gang digs a hole and creates a leak that results in sinking the island. Doom and Chester create a makeshift raft out of Lodge’s damaged glider while the gang makes their escape using the robot dragon.
In addition to a Lil’ Jinx one-pager and some fan art & puzzle pages, other stories in this issue include “The Pie and I,” wherein Betty tries to win Little Archie’s heart through baking only to be foiled by Jughead; followed by the traditional issue closer in those days, a Little Sabrina story, this one titled “A Good Sport.” One panel from that Sabrina tale that my buddy and I found especially amusing, for whatever reason, was Fangs Fogarty belting Jughead for eating his sandwich while voicing a seemingly hilarious (at least to us at the time) one-liner.
Was “try chewing on this” really that funny a line? Or was it just the image of Jughead getting knocked out of his shoes? I can’t specifically recall now, but I do remember laughing like crazy over it back in the day.
The Doom/Chester thing does bring back memories of a very different time; memories that I believe some of the younger readers out there might find interesting. Nowadays, when one is confronted with any sort of puzzle or mystery in life, the first thing we do is look up an answer on our smartphone, tablet, or computer. But what would a little kid like myself have done circa 1980, before there was an internet?
Well, I’d hop on the back of my pet dinosaur, ride him to the nearest book or comic store and purchase a Comic Book Price Guide. My first such guide was Overstreet’s 1981 edition (as mentioned previously in my Golden Age post back at the end of July).
I can’t honestly tell you that I specifically remember looking up Little Archie in that Guide, but knowing me, I’m sure I did at some point or another, because I do recall being fascinated by Doom and Chester and their history with Little Archie. Whensoever I did go looking, I must have been fairly disappointed because this was all it had listed for the title:
As you can see, the only notes it gives are for the introductions of Little Pureheart (the child equivalent of teenaged Archie’s superhero identity, Pureheart), the Little Archies (again, the child equivalent of the teenaged Archie’s eponymous band), and the Little Sabrina feature. No mention at all of appearances by Dr. Doom or Chester; not even any mention of Bolling or Taylor. It’s obvious that Archie comics (and perhaps Little Archie comics in particular) were not very sought after or greatly valued by collectors back then.
Back to the Future
It would take many years to track down all those Doom and Chester appearances, which I could really only do by buying up back issues of Little Archie. I was lucky enough to get this largely done by buying some lots on eBay in the early 00s, before prices on such comics really took off. And, of course, I now have the internet as a resource to double check if I missed anything.
The first appearance of Dr. Doom and Chester (last name eventually revealed to be “Punkett”) was in “Robots of Doom” in Little Archie #24 (Sept. 1962). You can actually read it here if you’re so inclined.
After their debut in that twenty-fourth issue, Doom and Chester would make eight more appearances in the pages of Little Archie. Those issues were #29 (Dec. 1963), #30 (Mar. 1964), #31 (June 1964), #32 (Sept. 1964), #33 (Dec. 1964), #34 (Mar. 1965), #38 (Mar. 1966), and finally, after a twelve-year absence, they returned in the subject of today’s post, Little Archie #136 (Nov. 1978). They would then pop up again a couple of times during Little Archie’s run in Archie Giant Series, specifically #549 (Aug. 1985), #570 (Sept. 1987), and #583 (Sept. 1988).
After this, they would come back in an all-new story for the second volume of The Adventures of Little Archie TPB, and then possibly again in a freebie comic for Free Comic Book Day. (I can’t find that FCBD issue at the moment, so I can’t say with absolute certainty that Doom and Chester appear in it, but I am fairly sure there was such a comic with new Little Archie material.) In any case, all these later stories were by Bob Bolling; Little Archie #136 remains the only time Dexter Taylor did a story with Doom and Chester.
There was also one other kinda-sorta appearance by the evil doctor during the Bronze Age, but it was not in the pages of Little Archie—it was in Life with Archie #190 (Feb. 1978). While his skin isn’t green and he’s missing the demonic features, I’m pretty sure it was the writer’s intention for this to be the same character (just a few years older, obviously). I’m guessing miscommunication with the artist was the cause of him looking more like Ben Franklin.
Finally, Doom and Chester returned for a few more appearances circa 2010, with their last modern appearance taking place in Archie #619 (May 2011).
Might Dr. Doom and Chester return again someday? Never say never, folks.